Bunkin’ Down

Every time I talk to the younger grandkids these days one of them is sure to ask, “Did you get them yet, Grandma?” They’re talking about the bunk beds we are planning to get sometime in the near future.  The Lord willing, we will have both of my daughters’ families here this fall, so short of moving to a bigger house (and that ain’t gonna happen!) we need to squeeze in some more beds.  We have three empty bedrooms—very small bedrooms—but with nine in Laurie’s family (who will be here for three months) and eight in bunks1Julie’s family, we are going to have to make the most of those small spaces.

I am hoping to borrow, or buy inexpensively, two sets of twin-over-twin bunk beds and possibly one twin-over-full bunk bed set.  We’ll be able to put four kids in one room and three girls in the other (the third bedroom is for their parents.)  That’s a lot of beds to bunksbuy all at once—but it’s cheaper than moving!

The discussion this week between Bob and me has been metal vs. wood.  He wants to get wood.  I think metal would be better.  Because the rooms are so small, metal will probably take up less room, and, actually, visually will not look as bulky.  Not to mention that metal will not get as knocked up and scratched as wood, and from my research, I think we can get nice sturdy metal beds for less money, as well.

Most kids will try anything to get out of going to bed—or staying in bed—when that time rolls around.  There’s always the old “I have to go potty!” excuse, or “I need a drink!” or “I forgot to tell you something” or “I heard something scary” or…  You know—the list goes on and on.  I’m hoping the bunk beds will make going to bed fun for my grandkids—well, at least until the novelty wears off!  I can just hear the giggles and whispering now!  I actually found a verse about kids in bunk beds—“For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall.” Proverbs 4:16.  (Just kidding—beware of those who take Scripture out of context!)

I guess the point ought to be that the kids get some sleep—not mischief and mayhem! Why is it what we so detested as kids, now sounds awfully good to us now as adults?  I admit I am a night owl, but still, when I finally crawl into bed at night, it feels pretty doggone good.  Sleep is a good thing.  Psalm 127:2 says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.”  Like a little kid, though, I just don’t want to miss out on anything fun!

Sleep-night_watchesAfter a busy day, we adults are usually ready to fall asleep fairly easily. The Lord tells us, though, to meditate on Him, when we lie in bed at night. “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.  Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.” (Psalm 63:6-7) Whether we’re remembering His blessings of the day before, or bringing the cares that keep us tossing and turning to Him, we can find rest in Him.

Meditate in the midnight hour:

When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet. (Proverbs 3:24)sleep4

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.  (Isaiah 26:3)

Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. (Psalm 116:7)

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all. (II Thessalonians 3:16)

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; (Psalm 91:5)

I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. (Psalm 3:5)

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matthew 6:34)

sleepArise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord: (Lamentations 2:19a)

 

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. (I John 5:14)

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, (Ephesians 6:18)sleep1

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2)

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (Psalm 119:97)

My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. (Psalm 119:148)

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! (Psalm 46:10)

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established. (Proverbs 16:3)

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At my age, I’m a little beyond mischief and mayhem at midnight, but meditating on God’s Word is always right and good!

Shaken!

It was just a week ago when Ecuador, a country that is near and dear to my earthquakeheart, suffered a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The toll has been devastating—654 dead thus far; around 16,600 injured; 58 still missing; 7000 buildings destroyed; more than 25,000 people living in shelters.  During this last week there have been more than 700 aftershocks and several strong tremors, one measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale.  Experts say the tremors will continue for weeks, earthquake3possibly months, to come.

My daughter’s family lives in Ecuador where they are missionaries. The earthquake occurred on the coast, about three hours from where the Naranjos live in the Andean mountain city of Cuenca.  They felt it, and continue to feel many of the aftershocks, but Cuenca was spared the destruction that the coastal region suffered.  Although other parts of the earthquake1city were shaken more strongly, for the most part, the Naranjos’ home—and their nerves—have only been rattled.  Many from their city, including the Naranjos, are donating supplies and some of their friends who have special skills or equipment are going to the stricken areas to help.

earthquake4One story, however, struck particularly close to home for the Naranjos. One of the men in their church is a Gideon. Ivan is often gone on Sundays because he is in other churches sharing the ministry of Gideons, which focuses on Bible distribution. Last weekend he was supposed to go to a three day meeting of the Gideons on the coast and present some reports. He called Fernando a few days before and told him he would not be in their church on Sunday.  Normally that is fine and they appreciate and understand Ivan’s work in the Gideons, but this time earthquake2Fernando asked him if there was any way at all he could get out of going.  They were having a very special service on Sunday and Fernando really wanted Ivan to be there. Ivan called one of the other Gideons and told him he would not be at the meeting because he felt he needed to be at his own church.  A couple hours later the man called him back and said they had decided to postpone the whole weekend because they really needed Ivan to be there to give his reports. It turned out that the house where the meeting was to be held was flattened like a pancake during the earthquake at the exact time the Gideons would have been meeting. Most likely, all those meeting in that house would have been killed.  As it turned out, six of those men who lived on the coast did lose their homes, but praise the Lord for His protection of these Gideons who faithfully try to spread His Word!

As the week wore on, Laurie came to the point where she could not even watch the reports anymore. They were too heartbreaking and she could not get past the thought, what if that had been our family in the midst of all that devastation? How would we provide for our children?  What would we do?  As Christians, of course, we know that God is in control and that we can, we must trust in Him, but we have all wondered how we would deal with the day to day hardships in such a tragic situation.

Thousands on the coast of Ecuador are struggling with the reality of those questions as their lives have crumbled around them. Life for most of them, who were already in poverty, has become a thousand times more difficult. The new normal for many weeks, months and perhaps even years to come will be trying to cope with the death, destruction, devastation and despair the earthquake left behind. We can only pray that from it many will turn to the Lord for strength and comfort and that eventually, as they rebuild, the result will be better than what they had before.

It only takes an instant for our world to change, perhaps even to crumble. When it happens – not if it happens, for one way or another we will be touched by change – will we crumble along with it? Are our foundations strong enough, our roots deep enough, to withstand the earthquakes of life? We sometimes go through life waiting for the other shoe to drop and fearful of that day when life will no longer be normal and we will be faced with the unexpected, the unthinkable, the unknown. Are we prepared?

A big part of the problem in Ecuador was the poor construction of the buildings and infrastructure in the earthquake-stricken areas. If our lives have weak foundations we will be hard-pressed to withstand the major trials and changes of life. Jesus said that He is the foundation upon whom we ought to build our lives. Luke 6: 47-48 says, “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could **-not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.” When we have given our lives to Him, and truly trust Him to do what is best for us, we can live our lives without fear now and face with peace and hope whatever comes in the future.

If I ever have to face such a terrible calamity as this, I pray my faith would remain strong. Whether it wavers or not, though, I know this one thing, He is faithful and will never leave me or forsake me.   (Hebrews 13:5b)  Who knows what a day will bring forth? God knows. We can choose to look forward to the future with expectancy and hope, as my husband likes to say, or we can live fearfully, afraid of whatever will rock our world. I like life at “normal,” but when it goes off-balance or crumbles altogether, may my foundation hold.  “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:6)

shaken pslam-62-6

Overwhelmed!

It’s springtime—at least on the calendar—and that means weird weather. This last week has certainly showed us a little of everything—beautiful, warm days that give us hope that winter has finally lost its grip; snow flurries that say uh, not exactly. Nice breezes, gale-force winds.  Drizzles, showers, downpours.  Today we are supposed to go from a low of 27° to a high of 63°.  Crazy.

Yesterday it seemed like Mother Nature could just not make up her mind. I had spent the night at my mother’s.  When I left to run a few errands on my way home it was overcast and a few snow flurries were gently falling.  When I came out of Walmart the snow had stopped but the wind was kicking up and it felt colder.  By the time I got to Meijer’s it seemed to be clearing up and a beautiful rainbow hung in the sky.  I came out of Meijer’s and it was overcast again.  I was less than a mile from home, though, when I saw something I had never seen before.

The street was dry, but up ahead a few blocks there seemed to be something strange on the road. I peered through the windshield, trying to discern what I was seeing.  A line of white appeared to be across the road, and as I drew closer to it, it seemed to be approaching me—fast.  Above it was a wall of white. What is that? I wondered.  The wall looked like maybe a cloud of fog hung right there on the road, but it was moving too quickly.  That line of white on the street—could it be…?

I did not have long to wonder. Within a block or two I drove right through that wall and into whiteout2a blizzard—and not just a blizzard, but a complete whiteout!  One second it was clear and the road was dry, and the next I could not see the sides of the road or the cars around me.  I felt like I had been suddenly swallowed up in the Twilight Zone.

Most blizzards begin with a few snowflakes, then a few more, and escalate into something big. This was first nothing and then BAM!  I had crossed the line into the midst of that something big.  I knew I only had about four blocks to go before I could turn off that street, and then another block and a half to get home. I proceeded cautiously.  I could see headlights of oncoming cars coming out of the white as they got close, and fortunately I was able to pick out the traffic light just before I crossed under it.  The building on the corner where I needed to turn loomed out of the murky white, and once I had made the turn and did not have the blizzard driven directly into my windshield, it was a little easier to navigate the rest of the way.  By the time I got home two minutes later, the worst was over, and by the time Bob got the groceries into the house the whole storm was over.  The blizzard had blown over almost as suddenly as it had appeared.

It took me a while, however, to shake that odd sensation that I had of feeling as if I had been swallowed up in that wall of white. I likened it in my mind to what one would feel if they were suddenly engulfed in a tidal wave, or had stepped blindly into a deep chasm. Overwhelmed.

Most of us have felt overwhelmed at one time or another. We try to juggle too many things, and we feel like we can handle it until one day—we can’t.  Or the problems keep piling up—and piling up.  Or just one big catastrophic calamity lands suddenly in our lap.  Or we are sinking in a world of hurt.  Whether everything has come crashing down around us, or overwhelmed5we’ve been buried in stress, crushed beneath the weight of sudden disaster, or submerged in heartbreak, we are overwhelmed.

The Israelite army ran and hid, overwhelmed, when they were confronted with the Philestine giant named Goliath—until a shepherd boy came along, and with God at his side, slew the giant. (I Samuel 17) There is no Goliath too big for God.

King Jehoshaphat and all of Judah were overwhelmed when the great army of an alliance of nations marched against them until God told them “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (II Chronicles 20:15) Don’t worry! It’s not your battle, but Mine! There is no battle over which He cannot claim the victory.

When Elijah was so overwhelmed with depression that he wanted to die, God ministered to him through an angel. (I Kings 19)  He provided for his physical needs—rest, food, comfort—and for his emotional needs as well, speaking to him to tell him of a helper and support—and hope. There is no need that He cannot fulfill.

The disciples were overcome with fear when a great storm suddenly threatened to sink themPeaceBeStill-1145annJMJ. When they woke Jesus, however, He calmed the storm with simply His words, “Peace, be still.”(Mark 4:36-41) There is no storm He cannot calm.

Noah and his family might have been engulfed in the Great Flood. (Genesis 6-9) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have been consumed in the fiery furnace. (Daniel 3) But there is no fire or flood through which He does not carry His own.

The Scriptures contain many promises that bring comfort and peace and hope to us when we are overwhelmed. Here are just a few:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  (John 16:33)

overwhelmedCast your anxieties on him, for he cares for you.  (1 Peter 5:7)

From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  (Psalm 61:2)

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything. but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  (Philippians 4:5-6)

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, Then You knew my path. In the way in which I walk They have secretly set a snare for me.  (Psalm 142:6)

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  (Matthew 11:28)

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.  (John 14:1)BeStillAndKnowThatIAmGod

There is none holy like the LORD: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. For there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.  (1 Samuel 2:2)

Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. (Psalm 37:5)

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  (Matthew 19:26)

Be still, and know that I am God.  (Psalm 46:10)

 

Do not be swallowed up—overwhelmed—by the cares of this world. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)

Never leave or forsake

Resurrected–Pure and Simple

I am “resurrecting” a blog this morning from April 3, 2010. It was called “Pure and Simple.”  The beauty of Easter is just that—pure and simple…

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I went out to run errands yesterday. It was a rather cool spring day, but it was nice to be out in the sunshine nevertheless. The most important thing on my list was to get all the fresh fruit I would need for the fruit salad I was taking to Easter dinner at my sister’s house. Everything else on the list was pretty mundane – paper towels, toilet paper, vitamins, toothpaste and so on. But, ooh – maybe I would find a pretty new blouse, too, to wear tomorrow. Hmm…  (Got the fruit, but nothing new to wear.)

* As I drove I had the radio tuned to WMBI, the radio station of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I enjoy much of the Christian programming that comes out of WMBI, whether it is music, teaching, preaching or just talk. Saturday afternoons are devoted to music, and not surprisingly, yesterday the program was all Easter music. It was a nice blend of old hymns, favorite popular Christian songs that I have enjoyed for decades, and some of the newer beautiful songs that are currently being played on the radio.

* As I listened to the lyrics about the cross, the empty tomb, a risen Savior, love, grace and gospelvictory, a deep feeling of contentment and joy came over me. This is what Easter is all about, I thought – the Gospel, pure and simple. That Christ died for our sin, was buried and rose again. I thought of I Corinthians 15: 1-4. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved… For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”

* The Gospel – pure. The plan of Father, Son and Holy Spirit since before the foundations of the world that the sinless and beloved Son of God would take upon Himself the sin of the world and pay the penalty of our sin – the redemption of blood. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness Tombof times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” (Ephesians 1:7-11) The plan that included victory over death and sin and Satan for all eternity. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 15:55, 57)

* The Gospel – simple. So simple that there is nothing left for the sinner to do to receive that redemption but to believe. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10:9) So simple that even a little child can believe. So simple that we have only to become as little children and open up our hearts – and simply believe. “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” (Luke 18:17)

* The beauty of Easter is not in a pretty spring day. It is not in a church filled with lilies or tulips or daffodils. It is not in lovely spring dresses or new shoes. It is not in a basket full of colored eggs and chocolate bunnies. It is not in a table laden with ham and fruit salad and cheesecake, and not even in the family and friends gathered ‘round that table. The beauty of Easter is in an old rugged, blood-stained cross, and a rough-hewn stone rolled away from an empty tomb. The beauty of Easter is in the love of a Father who gave His beloved Son, and the love of a Savior who gave His everything.

It is as pure and simple as that.

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Saturday Night Sing-Along

Saturday nights in our house are usually reserved for Sing-Along-with Robbie. Our friend Mark comes over with his guitar and we gather in the living room for an old-fashioned singspiration—an hour of some of Robbie’s favorite hymns, choruses, children’s songs, and occasionally pulling out an old folk song or music from our teen-age years.  Robbie loves those nights.  We all do, actually.  Our sixty-something voices may not be all what they once were (although Mark still sounds good) but Robbie enjoys his favorite pastime of all—music—and we all enjoy watching him!  Mark loves ministering to Robbie in this way, and we are so thankful for it.  We gather around the table afterwards and share in some refreshment of both food and fellowship.

Last night’s sing-along was especially fun. Robbie has been doing very well lately with some medication changes and just seems to be jumping back into life with enthusiasm.  I’ve noticed this week that he’s been “singing” more—long and loud and zealously!  He loves to watch his children’s music on his little personal DVD player.  This week he’s been singing along with the music—sometimes for hours at a time!  I use the word singing loosely.  Robbie has no words, and although his melodies have expanded from one note to three or four notes, he can’t carry a tune in a thimble—nevertheless he is definitely singing in his own unique way.

This time he joined in the singing with his whole heart and soul! He has kind of hummed along on other sing-along nights, but last night he sang with gusto! So what if he couldn’t say the words?  God knew what was in his heart!  So what if his tune was unrecognizable?  He was making a joyful noise!  Praise Him, praise Him!music

Robbie knows a few signs in sign language—very few. One of those is the sign for music. He pulls it out occasionally, but I noticed this week he was signing music much more frequently.  When he wanted his DVD player turned on or when I put him to bed and he wanted me to sing to him or play the harmonica, he would sign, “Music, please!” insistently until I took notice and complied.  “Music” is the most difficult of his signs for him to do because it requires a more complex motion.  The right hand sweeps back and forth over the left forearm—as if one were playing a lute, or David’s harp.

kingdavidharpOne of the messages of the Psalms, which were mostly written by King David and mention singing more than any other book of the Bible, could be signed by Robbie—“Music, please!” I and II Chronicles, which tell the story of David, are full of instances when he sang and led the nation in singing praises unto God.

Music is as much a part of God’s awesome, beautiful, intricate, varied creation as the mountains’ grandeur, the colorful plant world, the beauty of the tropics, the vastness of the oceans, the amazing variety of animals and the mystery and complexity of humans.  God gave us music as a gift—and He wants us to give it back to Him as an offering of worship, praise and thanksgiving to our Creator.  Music, please!

When we take a look at the Psalms we see several purposes for music as our gift back to God.sing1  The first is as an avenue of worship simply for who He is—His attributes.  It is an acknowledgement that He is righteous; His name is glorious, honorable, and most high; He is strong and powerful and holy; He is merciful, and our defense and refuge; He is true and faithful, He is our rock and salvation; He is good; He is just.  (Psalms 7:17; 9:2; 21:13; 30:4; 59:16-17; 66:2; 71:22; 81:1; 89:1; 95:1; 96:2; 101:1; 138:5; 145:7)

Our music should also be a testimony before others of His greatness; of His power and the marvelous things He has done and wondrous works He has wrought; of His victorious, righteous and just rule.  It should be a testimony to those around us, to our enemies, to the nations and to the heathen.  (Psalms 9:11; 18:49; 57:9; 67:4; 98:1; 105:2l 108:2; 126:2; 138:1; 149:1)

singOur gift of music back to God should reflect thanksgiving.  He gives abundantly and bountifully far above what we deserve.  He gives us victory and redemption.  (Psalm 13:6; 27:6; 71:23; 92:1)       Psalm 147:7 says, “Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God.” and then to keep singing!  Psalm 30: 12 tells us, “To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee forever.”

Many of the verses in Psalms tell us to simply praise and rejoice in Him with singing, with musical instruments and even in dance!  Sing loudly!  Sing joyfully!  Sing for it is good and sing2Psalm104-33pleasant and beautiful!  Sing upon your bed!  Sing with all your being as long as you live!  (Psalm 33:2-3; 47:6-7; 57:7; 61:8; 65:13; 66:4; 68:4, 25, 32; 75:9; 92:1; 96:1; 98:4-5; 100:2; 104:33; 108:1; 135:3; 144:9; 146:2; 147:1; 149:3, 5)

You may be wondering why I listed all these references.  I read every one of these verses—several times, in fact—and it just made my heart happy.  Two verses in the New Testament mention psalms and singing and how they encourage, edify and uplift us and those around us.  Ephesians 5:19 says, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”  Likewise, Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and sing5spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Good news for those of you who think you can’t sing—it says in your hearts. Whether we’re listening to music, singing in our hearts or simply singing where no one can hear us, music soothes, refreshes and cheers!

God asks of us, “Music, please!”  When we give Him that gift—no matter how beautiful or how out of tune our music may be—it blesses His heart, and it blesses ours, as well.

Scary Hairy Creepy Crawlies!

She could hear giggles from the little kids’ room. They weren’t asleep yet.  “Matthew, Mandy…”she warned as she opened their door and flipped on the light.  She took several steps into the room—and screamed!  There, almost beneath her foot, was a HUGE, hairy tarantula, as big as her hand, crawling across her children’s bedroom floor!

Tarantulas-5As Laurie told me about it on the phone the next day, my skin was crawling!  I shuddered.  I had just spent a week sleeping in that room a month ago!  And to think of my precious grandchildren sleeping like little angels as monstrous creatures scurried across their innocent little bodies, sinking hideous fangs into their tender flesh—it was a nightmare that seemed all too possible!  I was freaking out just thinking about it!

That particular tarantula was only the latest that had come to call in the few weeks the Naranjos had lived in their new house.  Melissa had encountered one in her shower, and another in her bedroom the week before.  Laurie found one crawling across the schoolroom floor shortly after they’d moved in, and Sara and Gabi have found at least two up on the third floor with them.  We stood outside one night as we returned home and watched a tarantula on the exterior wall near a third floor window.  The younger kids told me that they were a little scared of the tarantulas in their lawn—as well as the leeches.  They have had run-ins with tarantulas in each of the other houses they have lived in, as well, although nothing to the extent they are having now.

Well, that is just part of life in Ecuador, I suppose.  At least they don’t live in the Amazon jungle.  Oh, wait—the Amazon jungle is exactly where Laurie had her first encounter with a tarantula.  She had gone to Ecuador on a year-long missions work/study program (Arriba) as a college sophomore.  As part of that program, they took a trip into the jungle, staying in a “hotel” that consisted of a roof, an elevated floor—and no walls.  Of course there was no bathroom, either—just an outhouse.  Darkness fell quickly in the equatorial jungle.  As Laurie, armed only with a flashlight, headed down the concrete stairs with another girl to thetarantula outhouse in the black, creepy jungle, they discovered to their dismay (maybe terror is a better word) a tarantula headed up the stairs, straight at them!  I can’t recall if they ever made it to the outhouse that night, but I do remember they had to crawl into sleeping bags on the floor—and hope and pray nothing creepy crawled in with them!

Her next arach-attack wasn’t much better. It happened in the little apartment the girls on Arriba shared.  They were decorating for Christmas.  Laurie had removed a picture from the wall when one of the other girls suddenly froze and told Laurie, “There’s a tarantula on the back of the picture you’re holding!”  Arach-attack, heart attack—same difference!

I did some research about tarantulas this week after hearing about these scary hairy critters in my grandchildren’s bedrooms. Are they prone to bite, and is their bite poisonous?  Should I worry about them?  Do I ever want to return to Ecuador again?  (Silly question!  No humongous, hairy-legged, fearsome-fanged, creepy, crawly creature is going to stand between me and my grandchildren!)

It boils down to: no, I probably don’t need to worry too much. It seems the tarantulas in Ecuador are not deadly, and most of them are not aggressive, either, although I wouldn’t want to run into the Goliath bird-eater, which can grow up to 12 inches in diameter, has 1 inch fangs and eats birds, rodents and reptiles—and yes, is very aggressive toward humans.  Fortunately, it lives in swampy areas and never moves more than a few feet from its burrow.  Another aggressive species, the Ecuadorian brown velvet lives on the floor of the rainforest, grows up to 8 inches and can live up to 15 years.  Since the Naranjos live in the mountains, they are not likely to run into a nasty variety of tarantula, and as long as they don’t stick a hand into a tarantula’s burrow or corner it, they’re not likely to get bit—and if they did, it probably wouldn’t hurt any more than a bee sting.

Ok, so maybe I don’t need to have nightmares about my grandchildren being attacked by giant tarantulas, but I know if I lived in that house my eyes would be scanning every wall, ceiling and floor when I walked into a room, and if I were Laurie, I’d be checking under the sheets before I put my children to bed and then looking in on them at least once or twice a night—just to be sure. Laurie said she was so glad she had gone back into the kids’ room that night!  Even so, I think I might have a hard time getting to sleep at night, wondering if big buggy eyes were looking at me, or if any minute I would feel hairy legs crawling up my hairless legs!

Worry can be like that—the tarantula in the room.  It may not show itself most of the time, but it’s often hidden in the recesses of our minds, waiting to scurry through when we least expect it. As just the thought of one of those scary hairy creepy crawlies can set me on edge, have me checking corners and under the bed, and lying awake at night, so can worry rob me of not only sleep, but joy, peace, faith and even my physical well-being.  How do we rid ourselves of the tarantulas of worry?

worry5Jesus is the Great Exterminator (okay, that’s a paraphrase.) He has the solutions to our worries and fears.  Creepy crawlies keeping you up at night?  When it is a worry about financial matters He reminds us to “Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.”  (Psalm 116:7)  He has provided in the past; He will do so again.  When we are anxious over some matter, He says, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him…” (Psalm 37:7a)  His answer will come.  When we are burdened with care He tells us, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28, 29)  When we are fearful—that tarantula is a Goliath bird-eater—His Word tells us, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  (Psalm 4:8)  Proverbs 3:24 says that when we trust in Him, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.”

Worry can sneak up on us in the night—or any time at all. It steals our joy.  The apostle Paul had plenty to worry about.  He wrote the book of Philippians while he was being held prisoner by Nero the Emperor of Rome. He was chained to a guard and not allowed to preach in public. He had no idea what was going to happen to him. He might be acquitted, but then again he might be beheaded! Even some of the believers at that time were against him. In spite of the danger and discomfort in which he found himself, Paul overflowed with joy.  Nineteen times he mentioned the words joy, rejoicing or gladness in this epistle. The source of his joy can be found in the Gospel of Christ.  “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)  He refused to worry because his joy was in the Lord.philippians-4-6-8

We often let worry cheat us of peace, as well as joy. The fourth chapter of Philippians goes on to give us the antidote for worry and the source for peace: Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:6-8) Prayer and the attitude or mind-set of praise and thanksgiving can wipe out worry.

When we are prone to worry, we are weak on faith.  Whatever our need, God will provide when we trust in Him.  One of the names of God, Jehovah Jireh, means “The Lord will provide.” We find that name in Genesis 22, in the account of Abraham and Isaac.  God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, and in obedience and faith they went up on the mountain where God provided a ram to take the place of Isaac.  The name Jehovah Jireh does not mean “The LORD did provide,” but “The LORD will provide.” We can trust that it Worry-Ends_Cyandoes not apply to only past events, but also to future ones!  In Philippians 4:13 we see He gives us strength to trust, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. And again in Philippians 4 we see His provision in verse 19: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” When we trust in Him, when we have His strength and peace and provision, why worry?

Sweep the corners for the tarantula of worry. Sweep it right out—crush it if you have to!  There’s no reason to fear the creepy crawlies by night or the scary critters waiting to jump out at you any moment.  The joy of the Lord, His strength, peace, and faith in Him will exterminate those pests!

Beautiful Adornment

I have been blessed—truly, wonderfully, abundantly blessed—with two beautiful daughters.  Both are godly, compassionate, nurturing women who believe their highest calling from the Lord is to be mothers—and both have excelled in that area, to say the least!  Laura has seven children and Julie has six—and praying the Lord will bring another one or two (or more!) into her life.  Not that the number of children makes them exceptional mothers, of course (although in this day and age it is rather unusual), but the proof of their mothering skills lies in the exceptional children they are raising.  Of course, being those children’s grandma, I am not biased or anything…  No, really—they are sweet, loving, amazing kids who love the laurieLord—because their mamas and dads are raising them well.

I was in Ecuador with Laurie a month ago to celebrate her birthday with her. I thank the Lord for allowing me that special time with her.  We had a wonderful time together and I will treasure those memories for a long time.  I can hardly wait for this summer when Laura and her whole family will be here with us for a few months!

Today, however, is Julie’s birthday and although sadly I cannot be with her, I want to take this opportunity to celebrate her.  I certainly named her well.  Julie means “youthful,” and although she is forty-something now, she still has that same youthful spirit about her that she’s always had.  She was always a giggler julieand she still loves to laugh, play, entertain and tease.  She’s ready to break into a little song and dance anytime she thinks it will make her kids laugh—or groan in embarrassment—whether it is a silly version of “Let me Entertain You” just as the neighbors happen to drive by, or “So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye” as her loved ones roll out of the driveway.  She loves to play board games with the kids, or hide and seek out in the yard.  She’s older than I was when I became a grandma, but she has a one-year-old and is not ready to stop there if the Lord would allow her to have more.  I suppose having young’uns is bound to keep you young as well!

If I were to choose a Scripture verse that I think exemplifies Julie, I think it would be 1 Peter 3:3-4 which says, “Do not let your adorning be external, the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear, but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” Julie’s beauty lies in her tender loving heart, her compassion and thoughtfulness for others, and her commitment to the Lord.  She is kind and good and yet strong.  She shows it in how she is raising her children with what I like to call a “velvet glove”—love, patience, gentleness but firmness in quiet discipline.  The children respond with cheerful, willing obedience and devotion to her.

I wish I had had that touch when I was raising my children!  (Somehow they turned out well in spite of me!)  I always wished I was a gentler, quieter mother.  When I see those qualities in my daughters, it touches my heart.  My grandchildren are blessed with mothers of true inner beauty, and godly fathers.  Thank you, Lord!

As we get older, most of us strive to hang on to at least a little of our youthful looks—maybe we cover the gray or soften our makeup to hide the tell-tale signs of aging.  After a while there is not much we can do to undo the passage of time.  These verses in I Peter, however, tell us that true inner beauty need not fade away.  A sweet, humble, patient, peaceful spirit is a precious ornament that beautifies not only the inner woman, but shines forth on her face as well, no matter her age!  Want to look beautiful at ninety?  Let the beauty of that gentle, quiet spirit radiate!

Jesus was our example. Philippians 2 reminds us of His mindset, His spirit: “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:2-8) We are to have the same mindset as Jesus—love, mercy, humility, selflessness, servanthood, sacrifice…  Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in us!

So, Happy Birthday, Julie! You get more beautiful with every passing year as you simply radiate Jesus!beauty